Thursday, 1 November 2007

'There's no excuse for grown men playing football'

I left the Whittington Hospital from the neonatal special care unit at about 2pm yesterday and re-entered it in the back of an ambulance about six hours later. My new grandson Stanley was transferred out of intensive care in the early afternoon (so good news there), only for his grandad to be driven into Accident & Emergency before the day was over.

I’ve become quite a frequent visitor to the Whittington’s A&E department over the years with one thing and another, but this was first time in the back of an ambulance. The cause was being tripped while flying full tilt for goal in my regular midweek football match and slamming head first into a metal post.

Or at least I think it was. Actually, I blacked out briefly and have no recollection of what happened before waking up with blood oozing down my face and a group of anxious footballing friends trying to sound reassuring with the news that an ambulance was on its way. I spent the evening at the hospital being glued back together and watched over for mild concussion, and woke up today with the mother of all headaches.

Apart from which, I’m fine. And at least I didn’t get the consultant who made the observation, only half-jokingly I suspect, while treating me for a spinal injury a few years ago, that ‘there is no excuse for grown men playing football. It results in more unnecessary pressures on the health service than any other single thing except alcohol.’

I did, however, learn from the ambulance crew something more about the target-driven absurdities that are undermining the NHS. The ambulance service is under intense, and growing, pressure in London, as it is elsewhere. Rather than putting more ambulances into service, the suits are introducing ambulance cars, which are cheaper and result in quicker response times.

Quicker response times meet the targets the government has set the health service. But they tell you bugger all about the effectiveness of the service. Ambulance cars might arrive more quickly but you still need an ambulance, or the equipment it carries, for more serious incidents. But it’s only the immediate response time that matters in terms of the targets.

It’s the same in A&E. You get a quick initial assessment almost as soon as you arrive at the hospital these days because that’s what the targets measure. But you can still wait for hours to get any treatment.

‘I’ve been doing this job for 20 years,’ the woman who treated me in the ambulance told me, ‘and I can see when the changes they’re making aren’t working. There are lots of suggestions people like me can make for improving the service. But if we say anything, we’re just told that we are “dinosaurs” and ignored.’


Alice Kilroy said...

Alice Kilroy Says:

November 1st, 2007 at 2:45 pm

I was with a friend in the City of London last November when she had an accident. She fractured her shoulder. Someone dialled 999 and very quickly a Paramedic on a Bike arrived. We were told she needed to go to A & E (the incompetent treatment there is another story) and that it would be much quicker to take a Taxi than to wait for an Ambulance. Fortunately we had money but what would have happened if we had had no money? It was cold and the only seats avaliable where metal. By the way whose idea was it to put metal seats in stations and on the streets?

If this is what Targets do then as far as I am concerned you can stuff them where the sun don’t shine! I am quite happy to be called a Dinosaur by Nu Labour. It will not be the first time and it won’t be the last.

Public Servant said...

It's not just in the health service that frontline workers are made to feel like dinosaurs if they express an opinion. Police, teachers, social services, housing officers, everyone who isn't a management consultant is being told their experience doesn't matter. Just shut up and fill in the forms is the attitude.

Jon Trainer said...

What sport did your consultant play? and did he takeinto account how much other pressure there would be on the NHS is people didn't play sport from heart attacks, depression and other illnesses?